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Pa.'s data on COVID-19 in nursing homes still stinks


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Jaafari
September 2, 2020
How police handle mental health calls, Cumberland County's DA in hot water, and a hotel worth checking out. Good morning, Posters. 
From mid-April to mid-June in the Bucks County jail, corrections officers used force 44 times, and in at least 16 of those cases, the inmate was either suicidal, hurting themself, or was someone who has a diagnosed mental illness, WITF's Brett Sholtis reports. In one case, a 28-year-old woman on suicide watch was pepper sprayed and restrained. Corrections officers, police, and prosecutors say that managing suspects with mental illness sometimes calls for heavy-handed tactics. These methods are common to many prisons around the country, but behavioral health experts say they demonstrate a system unequipped to deal with people in crisis.

THE CONTEXT:  Out of 990 instances of police shootings gathered by The Washington Post in the past year, 217 included a victim who had a mental illness. It's a big number, especially when you consider that one-in-five Americans live with a mental illness, and that one-in-five people over age 16 will likely have contact with police in some form. Yet police remain the primary first responders to mental health situations, which tend to escalate quickly. In Washington State, police are now mandated to take extra mental health and de-escalation training –– something Pennsylvania has required of its officers since 2015. Yet, as Sholtis reports, there continue to be interactions with local police and people with mental illness that end badly.

THE SOLUTION: There are two schools of thought on this: place social workers alongside police, or replace police with social workers. The idea is that these public employees and medical professionals are better trained in dealing with people with mental illness and can de-escalate situations better than law enforcement. In Eugene, Oregon, when there is a mental health call, people show up in a van with blankets and medical supplies, not stun guns or firearms. The city's program now handles a fifth of all police calls

“We are living in inhumane conditions." —Richard Hack, an inmate held in a Philadelphia jail while awaiting trial. The ACLU and Pa. Institutional Law Project filed suit against the city for its treatment of prisoners during COVID-19. 
POST IT: A beautiful photo of Philadelphia's Navy Yard. Thank you @justin_time_915Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
TROUBLE COUNTING: Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, Pennsylvania health officials are still providing inaccurate and incomplete case and death data for nursing homes, Jamie Martines of Spotlight PA reports. And they won't say why.

FACEBOOK FLAP: A Facebook conversation resulted in calls for Cumberland County's district attorney to resign, the Sentinel reports. Critics questioned whether the DA could be impartial in cases of police shootings.

GOV. FETTERMAN? Buried in this story on commutations from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman –– who once was expected to seek a U.S. Senate seat –– made a surprise announcement that he may run for governor.

LEFT BEHIND: An Urban-Brookings report found that Latinos were most likely to not receive federal COVID-19 aid, such as the $1,200 stimulus check. For WITF, a look at one migrant family that had to do without after one person tested positive and couldn't work. 

404 ERROR: Epidemiology or data analysts don't exist in York's health department, which is leading to problems in handling and reading the city's coronavirus data, the York Dispatch reports. York is one of only a handful of municipalities with its own health staff.

GOOGLE DOODLE: If you missed it, yesterday's Google Doodle honored the life of Pittsburgh's Jackie Ormes, America's first Black female cartoonist. Her debut cartoon, "Patty-Jo n' Ginger," was published in the Pittsburgh Courier on Sept. 1, 1945.

SCORE ONE FOR THE HOME TEAM: Spotlight PA was named a finalist for two national journalism awards by the Online News Association. In the journalism world, these are a pretty big deal. Thanks to all of our readers and donors for valuing original, hard-hitting journalism in Pennsylvania.

TAKE 5: How's that pandemic fitness routine going? Not so well? Same, same. The hardest part of restarting a fitness journey is getting back into a routine. With that being said: Get up! Right now! And do this easy 5-minute yoga class. Trust me, you'll feel great afterwards. 

CRINGEWORTHY: We've all lived through some pretty awful exes. I, like many people, like to keep my past lovers blocked on social media and avoid them at all costs. But for one unlucky woman whose story has gone viral, she had to confront her ex-husband's infidelity through a New York Times wedding announcement. Read the New York Post story here

FOR THE KID IN YOU: No joke, I fell out of my chair when I saw this TikTok of a dedicated Cartoon Network hotel, and then almost fainted when I found out it's located in Lancaster County. If you're a nerd at heart and itching to sleep in a room decked out in "Adventure Time" or "We Bare Bears" art, lemme know. We can go halfsies. 

WHAT TO WATCH IF ... You're itching for Halloween to start: People may love fall for the pumpkin spice, but there's a good number of us who simply deal with the cooler weather if only to celebrate Halloween. This year could be a bust because of COVID, but we can at least count on some good spooky blockbuster releases, including Jordan Peele's take on "Candyman" and Netflix's "The Haunting of Bly Manor." 
Unscramble and send your answer to newsletters@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Perspective

Congrats to our daily winners: Tina S., John C., Alex L., Chris W., Patricia R., Lynne E., Brandie K., Lynn K., Theodore W., Thomas B., Teresa M., Ann and John, Cory N., Daniel G., Maria W., David W., Chris M., Jackie G., and Charlene S. 
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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